July 30 – International Day of Friendship

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About the Holiday

Established in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Friendship asserts the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The UN resolution places particular emphasis on involving young people in community activities that include different cultures and promote respect for individual diversity. On this day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges everyone, especially young people who will be our future leaders, “to resolve to cherish and cultivate as many warm relationships as possible, enriching our own lives and enhancing the future.” The day is celebrated with special initiatives, events, and activities that promote dialogue, education, understanding, and cooperation. Children are especially receptive to learning about and reaching out to others to achieve common goals. Today’s book can get them started. For more information about the International Day of Friendship and a list of actions we can all take, visit the United Nations website

Our World: A First Book of Geography

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisk Feng

 

A board book like no other, Our World literally gives kids a well-rounded look at the geography of the countries, oceans, animals, plants, and climate that make up our home planet while engaging them with lyrical verses and information-packed paragraphs. Sue Lowell Gallion invites readers on her journey around the world as the sun, rising over a cool sea where scuba divers swim, brightens the sky with pastel colors: “Many places to explore, / From mountain peaks to ocean floor. / Look around you, step outside… / Find forests tall, / And grasslands wide.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Over the three spreads that contain this verse, children learn how the weather influences the types of trees that inhabit wooded areas and what types of leaves they have. Next, Gallion contrasts forests with open grasslands and reveals that while trees may be scarce on the plains, a diversity of animals is not. While herbivores easily find plenty to satisfy their hunger in grassy environments, carnivores must hunt, and their prey have adapted to survive: “Many animals, like zebras, are fast runners because there are few places to hide.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Traveling on to the world’s lush rainforests, Gallion provides little learners with enticing snippets of information about the profusion of plants and animals that live here. What might be the counterpoint to rainforests? If you’d say deserts, you’d be right! While some deserts are hot and others cold, Gallion writes, “all deserts have one thing in common: it almost never rains.” Still, an amazing variety of plants and animals thrive in these formidable conditions. Gallion shares how with her young readers.

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Antarctica and the icy tundra of the Arctic and high mountain peaks are populated with animals specially suited to life in our planet’s coldest regions. But, Gallion reveals, “the ice covering both the North and South poles is melting fast now. This makes temperatures and ocean levels rise around the world.” The book’s journey also spans “rivers, lakes, / Oceans deep. / Valleys, hills, / Mountains steep.” Over these pages, children learn how rivers form and where they flow; they discover what types of creatures live in shallow ocean waters as well as those pockets that are “deeper than the tallest mountains on Earth”; and they learn how the most majestic mountains and their valleys were created. 

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

One two-page spread opens to a world map, where the seven continents and major oceans, seas, and gulfs are clearly labeled. Children will love pointing out where they, friends, and family live as well as places they’d like to visit someday. Panning back and back and back again, readers see Earth floating in space as Gallion explains “what makes life on Earth possible for plants, animals, and humans, too.” Then it’s time to zoom in to view a single house under a star-lit sky; a house that will spark in readers an appreciation for the wonder of “our blue planet, / Warmed by sun: / A living home for everyone.”

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sue Lowell Gallion’s enchanting poem and informational text, which is sure to inspire kids to learn more about all of Earth’s natural wonders, are set off in a unique design which allows the book to open into a 3D, freestanding globe that will wow kids and adults alike. Magnets embedded in the front and back cover hold the spherical shape while the fanned-out pages create a sturdy base. 

Giving this view of the world its vibrant and distinctive look are Lisk Feng’s spectacular illustrations of dawn-streaked hills, forests frosted white in winter and ablaze with color in autumn, and an array of creatures big and small that make each region exceptional. The image of the rainforest is especially rich, with its multi-hued vegetation that hides a snake, a jaguar, a toucan, a crocodile, and more creatures that kids will love searching for. Transitioning from the world map to a view of Earth from outer space to a single home at the end of the book reminds readers of their singularly important place in the world as individuals and as custodians of its resources.

A gorgeous and perfectly designed book to spark learning and research about the world’s natural features, Our World: A First Book of Geography is a must for children who love travel, nature, science, social studies, and learning about the environment. It would be a valuable asset for every classroom and homeschooler as well as a favorite pick for public library collections.

Ages 2 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660819

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

A Chat with Sue Lowell Gallion

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Sue Lowell Gallion writes for children because she is passionate about children, reading, and any combination of the two! She’s the author of the award-winning Pug Meets Pig and more.

Sue has three books releasing in 2020. Our World, A First Book of Geography, illustrated by Lisk Feng, is a uniquely formatted board book that opens up to form a free standing globe. Her latest picture book is All Except Axle, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley, is the story of a new car anxious about leaving the assembly plant and learning to drive. Tip and Tucker Paw Painters is the third in her early reader series written with her author pal Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Andre Ceolin. 

Welcome, Sue! As soon as I saw Our World (and, of course, played with it a bit), I knew I had to talk with you about your and Lisk Feng’s eye-popping book. Our World: A First Book of Geography is stunning! Can you take readers on the journey from your original idea for this book to how it became this 3D, free-standing beauty?

I’m a huge fan of the innovative, creative board books on the market now that are such fun for kids and adults to share. Also, I grew up in a family printing company, so I’m intrigued with paper engineering and unique book forms. We did a lot of hand bindery work at home on unusual jobs like pop-up advertising pieces. I was a pro with a tape machine early on.

I went to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) workshop on board books for authors and illustrators in late 2017. During a brainstorming time, I imagined a board book about the Earth in the shape of a globe with its stand. Afterward, I searched the market to see if something like this already existed. It didn’t! Over the next month, I wrote a rhyming text to match that concept.

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The iconic Earthrise image taken from Apollo 8 in 1968 was part of my initial vision. From space, there are no national borders. I hope this book might inspire people around the world to further value our world, and to act to save and protect our planet and its environment. The melting glaciers, catastrophic weather changes, and other effects of climate change show that immediate action is long overdue.  

When the Phaidon team became interested in the manuscript, we started revising. I can’t tell you how many versions there were over a year and a half! The manuscript went from 56 words to almost 1,000 with the addition of supplementary nonfiction text for older kids. Maya Gartner, the editor, and Meagan Bennett, the art director, are in Phaidon’s London office. The two of them, plus Lisk Feng, the illustrator, were a great team. Many other Phaidon staff were involved in making this idea into a reality, of course. The way the front and back covers connect magnetically to hold the book open is incredible. My 88-year-old printer dad is impressed!

From the cover – which, with its chugging steamer, wheeling seabirds, and diving whale, seems to be in motion – to its lush interior spreads, Lisk Feng’s illustrations are gorgeous representations of each area. What was your first impression of her artwork? How were the final images chosen? Do you have a favorite?

My Phaidon editor told me they had been wanting to do a project with Lisk Feng for some time. I could see why! My first impression of her work was from her website and the middle grade nonfiction book Everest, written by Sangma Francis and illustrated by Lisk (Flying Eye Books, 2018.) It is a fascinating and gorgeous book; do get your hands on a copy! I was thrilled with the opportunity to create a nonfiction book with Lisk.

We worked to make sure each continent and a variety of geographic locations are represented in the illustrations. Each spread representing a biome is based on specific locations that both Lisk and I researched. As the illustrations were in process, I continued to research and revise the text to match the art.

My favorite spread changes all the time. I love the jungle/rainforest spread. The colors and composition are amazing. And I’ve been drawn to the water feature spread, which illustrates rivers, lakes, and oceans, from the very beginning.

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As far as the cover, one of the themes of the book is the connectedness of the world. Early versions of the manuscript included how transportation links the world, and that’s represented on the cover. It’s another conversation point with kids – where would you like to go, and how could you get there? Which oceans would you fly over or sail through?

The text is a combination of lyrical, rhyming verses and explanatory paragraphs that are just right for introducing the youngest readers as well as older kids to geography. How did you choose which details to include? How would you recommend readers, teachers, and homeschoolers use Our World?

I’d love to direct your readers to the two activity guides for the book. One is for babies through kindergarteners, and another guide has games to use with a globe beach ball. Some work with a real globe, too. Globe beach balls are inexpensive and easy to find online. The games can be as simple as playing catch and noticing whether your hand is holding land or water – and a child is learning how much of our earth is covered with ocean. The guides are free to download from my website, suegallion.com, under Resources. Most libraries have globes, so that’s one more reason to go to the library!

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The dual narrative makes the book appeal to a range of ages, I hope. The rhyming text is an introduction, and the supplementary text adds more. We tried to make the text interactive, to encourage conversation and further learning. For example, in the spread about water features (lakes, rivers, and oceans) we mention that places in the ocean are as deep as the tallest mountains on land. Perhaps that will inspire a family to talk about Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space, who recently dove in a submersible to Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, located in the Pacific Ocean.

It was important to me to include the fact that ocean water is too salty to drink. An easy experiment to do with kids is to have them mix their own saltwater and see what it tastes like. This can lead to a conversation about how in many places people don’t have enough safe, clean freshwater to drink, and what happens when people have to drink dirty or polluted water.

I hope as kids and adults turn the pages to reveal different places in our world, they can talk about contrasts and similarities. What would it be like to live in this place? What would you feel or hear if you were there? What else would you like to know?

Why do you think it’s important for children to learn geography from the earliest ages?

A child’s understanding of the world around them begins at birth, then grows as sight, dexterity, and mobility develop. I like the definition of geography as learning place and space. Spatial thinking and mapping skills are important to understanding concepts later on in math, the sciences, history, and more.

Experiencing other places, either in person or through books, can expand a young child’s world tremendously. Books can help kids feel a connection with places they haven’t been, and people they’ve never met. And in our nature-deficit culture, books also encourage kids and families to explore the outdoors and expand curiosity.

Which of the areas described in the book most closely resembles where you live? What do you like best about this area? Have you ever traveled to any of the other regions in the book? What surprised you most about it/them?

I live on the eastern edge of the Great Plains in the U.S., a grassland biome. In the book, grasslands are represented by the African savanna. We wanted the illustrations to feature animals whenever possible, because animals are so interesting to kids. The African savanna, with all its marvelous large mammals, was the natural choice.

I did want to give a shout out to my region in the book, so you’ll find the cold winters and blizzards that cross the Great Plains of North America included in the secondary text. What do I like best about this region? Well, Kansas City is my hometown. It is a beautiful part of the country, as you see in this image of the Konza tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas.

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My family circled back here after living in several other regions of the U.S. I love to travel, and I can’t wait for it to be safe to start planning my next trips. I have four more continents to go: South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. And I haven’t visited a polar biome yet. It’s on my list.

Thanks, Sue, for sharing the fascinating story of Our World! What an amazing resource for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers! And I hope you get to visit all the places on your list! 

You can connect with Sue on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Our World: A First Book of Geography Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sue Lowell Gallion in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Our World: A First Book of Geography, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisk Feng
  • An Inflatable Globe Beachball

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite place for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from July 30 through August 6 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 7.

Prizing provided by Sue Lowell Gallion

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only | No Giveaway Accounts 

International Day of Friendship Activity

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Our World Activity Kits

 

You’ll find lots of activities that get kids – from infants to kindergarteners and beyond – interacting with geography through games, movement, songs, a scavenger hunt, and crafts on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website. Learning about our world has never been so much fun!

Our World Activity Kits

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You can find Our World: A First Book of Geography at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 26 – It’s Rising Star Month

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About the Holiday

Are you a rising star? Of course, you are! What is a rising star? It’s someone who shows great promise for the future. That sounds like you, right? Today, celebrate all of your special talents and knowledge that will take you far as you grow up. How far? Well, why not shoot for the stars? Get started on a new learning journey about those stars with today’s book.

Animals in the Sky

By Sara Gillingham

 

The weather’s warmer and the sky is dark. From your window or in backyard you can look up and find… what? Little ones know the sky is “filled with twinkling stars.” But do they “know that it’s full of pictures too?” Just like a dot-to-dot puzzle, “if you draw lines between some of the brightest stars, you can find animals.” These animals and other pictures made from stars have a special name: constellations. Youngest astronomers will shine while putting their scientific minds to work on the riddles that accompany each constellation and discovering the answer. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

Riddle: “I have thick, shiny fur, and large, padded feet. I the winter, I like to take a long sleep in my warm den. What animal in the sky am I?”

If your little one guesses “a bear,” they’ll be grr-atified to learn that they’re right! In reward they learn about another well-known constellation that is part of the Big Bear.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Ready to try another one? Terrific! Riddle: “I have a tail that wags when I’m happy, a big wet nose, and a loud bark. What animal in the sky am I?” Anyone lucky to have one of these for a pet will know right away that connecting these stars makes the Big Dog. But readers will also discover the name of the that right where his dog tag would be is “the brightest star in the whole sky”––Sirius.

Five more clever riddles and facts about the Rabbit, the Lion, the Southern Fish, the Eagle, and the Wolf also await star-struck kids. A fold-out page at the back depicts ten more constellations named for favorite animals.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham introduces the youngest stargazers to twenty animal constellations that will pique their interest in astronomy and all things space related. Her lyrical riddles for seven constellations give kids clues to their names with evocative descriptions that not only lead readers to the right answer but reveal facts about the real animals in nature. Her stylish presentation of connected stars on a navy-blue background, as crystal clear as a cloudless night, allows little ones to easily see the basic formation of the constellation. The page then folds out, and the outline is superimposed with an image of the animal inspired by the shape. The third page goes on to show the two floating in a star-sprinkled sky along with another interesting tidbit of information.

With a gold-embossed cover and sturdy pages, Animals in the Sky is fun to share for nighttime star gazing and as a spark for lessons on astronomy, science, space, history, and mythology. The book would make a beautiful gift for new babies, baby showers, new little siblings as well as a go-to favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660246

Older children will enjoy the stunning Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations, also by Sara Gillingham. You can read my review here.

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

To learn more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Rising Star Month Activity

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Courtesy of education.com

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot

 

What constellation do these kids see in the sky? Print and follow the dots to find out. Then color the picture! Then enjoy another page filled with star-studded fun!

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot | Constellations Dot-to-Dot

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Older children will enjoy this printable Read the Stars Constellations Word Search

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Animals in the Sky at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

I Love You, Elephant!

Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

 

If you’re looking for a joyfully uplifting story to share with your baby or toddler, you’ll find it within the magically changing pages of I Love You, Elephant. The sweet sentiments begin on the cover as a little monkey, holding a banana and surrounded by hearts, comes to visit Elephant. Open the cover and Elephant’s small smile at seeing her friend becomes a wide-open grin as Monkey tells her, “I love your long trunk! I wish I had a trunk like yours.” Not only does Elephant get this compliment, but she also receives the banana as a snack.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Monkey moves on and approaches Lion. “I love you, Lion,” Monkey unabashedly states as Lion glances in Monkey’s direction. Turn the page and Lion’s face lights up to hear how much Monkey loves his “shaggy mane.” The next animal to receive a visit from Monkey is Wildebeest, who looks a little skeptical while Monkey raises “thumbs up” fists to his head. But Monkey just wants to let Wildebeest know how much he admires his big horns. At this, Wildebeest gazes upward with a proud smile on his face. Zebra also gets a confidence boost that leaves her with a big grin of surprise.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But what about Monkey? How do all the animals feel about him? It turns out they love Monkey as much as he loves them! What exactly do they love the most? Little ones will agree with Elephant, Lion, Wildebeest, and Zebra’s favorite traits about Monkey, and adults will love sharing the animals’ full assessment—“We love you just the way you are!”—with their kids.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Adorably rounded faces that change with the turn of a page that sets in motion a “venetian blind” effect will delight little readers. The change in each animal’s expression reinforces the esteem-building result of Monkey’s spontaneous declarations of what he loves about his friends. The sweet examples in the story are wonderful springboards for discussion and are sure to inspire kids and adults to follow in Monkey’s footsteps and reveal what they love about each family member, their pets, their friends, their toys, their home, and, especially, about each other.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Carles Ballesteros cleverly includes a guessing game each time Monkey approaches a new friend. Through props and hand gestures, Monkey hints at what trait he loves best about each animal. Young readers will have fun trying to name what trait Monkey likes. With vibrant, yet soothing, colors and stylized flowers, vines, and plants, Ballesteros sets his story in a welcoming jungle landscape that children will want to visit over and over again.

A sturdy board book that will become a favorite of babies and toddlers, I Love You, Elephant! makes a heartwarming addition to home, preschool classrooms, and public library shelves as well as a terrific baby shower or new baby gift—for the baby or a young sibling.

Ages Baby – 3

Harry N. Abrams, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738821

To learn more about Carles Ballesteros, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Visit the Zoo Activity

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

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You can find I Love You, Elephant! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s National Optimism Month

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About the Holiday

With its longer days, warmer weather, and blossoming flowers and trees, springtime puts us in a brighter frame of mind. There’s inherent optimism in seeing birds build nests and hearing the cheeps of baby birds, in shedding the coats and boots that weigh us down, and even in looking forward to summer vacation. Little ones love exploring during spring, just like Sammy in today’s book!

Sammy in the Spring

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

Sammy watches out his window as the birds sing and feed their babies. Sammy wants to play outside and asks his stuffed horse Hobs to come with him. He puts on his socks and shoes then grabs his bike and puts Hobs in the basket. “Sammy likes riding on his bicycle. The flowers smell so good! He can see yellow, white, and pink flowers.”

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Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

After his bike ride, Sammy jumps on his scooter and fits Hobs into the basket on the front. They tow a little car behind them. Squirrels scamper in the trees, a family of bunnies peeks through the grass, and butterflies flutter in the air. One even lands on Hobs’ nose! Behind a bush, Sammy spies some sleeping hedgehogs. But the time for hibernating is over. “‘Hey, hedgehogs, wake up! Spring has come,’ Sammy whispers.”

When the hedgehogs wake up, they keep Hobs company while Sammy plays with his car. Then it’s time to drive the tractor and tend the garden. They meet three woolly lambs. “How sweet they are! ‘Baaa, baaa,’ the little lambs bleat.” Next Sammy digs holes in the ground and plants carrot, strawberry, radish, and cucumber seedlings. After all that playing and hard work, Sammy and Hobs go back inside to wash up and have a nice dinner together.

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Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

Little ones will be happy to spend time with Sammy and Hobs as they enjoy a spring day together in Anita Bijsterbosch’s adorably inviting story. The imaginative relationship that toddlers and young children have with their favorite toys is charmingly reflected here as Sammy includes Hobs on his bike, scooter, and tractor rides, shows him the lambs and hedgehogs, and gives him his own apple to eat at dinnertime. Bijsterbosch’s language is bright and cheery and paced with the same eager excitement of children playing and exploring.

Bijsterbosch’s bold images and brilliant colors are beautifully displayed in this large board book that cleverly uses full and half pages to show transitions in the action. Smiles abound as Sammy and Hobs meet birds, hedgehogs, lambs, bunnies, and even a tiny pink worm. Young readers are sure to smile too.

A joyful book that little ones will want to hear again and again, Sammy in the Spring would make a great take-along for picnics and other outdoor activities and a sweet addition to home and preschool libraries.

Learn more about Anita Bisterbosch, her books, and her art on her website.

Ages 2 – 5

Clavis, 2018 | ISBN 978-1605373676

National Optimism Day Activity

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Sunny Daisy Craft

 

This cheery springtime flower is easy for little ones to make with some adult help and can brighten any room!

Supplies

  • Small paper plate
  • Green straw
  • Yellow paint
  • Green paper
  • Tape
  • Small flower pot (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint a circle in the center of the plate, let dry.
  2. Make petals by cutting around the plate about every 1 ½ inches angled toward the center
  3. Fold some petals forward and some back to give the flower dimension
  4. Cut leaves from the green paper
  5. Tape the straw to the back of the plate
  6. Display your flower!

Picture Book Review